I did not want my veterinarian friend, Dr Rob Whittaker who was familiar to Molly to be the one who shaved her front left leg.  So Molly and I played games with me searching for a tick, pretending to find one and not being able to extract it without getting a closer look. That was two weeks ago and I figured that her hair wouldn't grow back enough in three weeks time to impede 'Whit' from making it as comfortable for Molly as could possibly be.

It all began 13 years, seven months and six days ago when I drove to a neighborhood tenement in Lebanon, New Hampshire to follow up on an ad I had read in the Valley News while conducting a price survey for the beer company I worked for.  The ad was simple.  It read "American Lab puppies for sale. AKC certified.  First come, first pick. Tel (603) XXX-3629."  When I called, an older woman answered to tell me her son had packed off to Iraq and that he would take whatever he could get for any pick of the litter which were 3 males and four females and for her not to sell them until they were eight weeks old.  I was the first caller.  We settled on $250 cash.  That was when I met Molly.

The previous two months I had read as much about bird hunting dogs as I could find.  I had learned that approximately 35% of a dog's brain is devoted to smell related operations and that a Lab's nose extends from its nostrils to the back of its throat giving it an olfactory area 40 times greater than mine, and that Molly could wiggle each nostril independently and that would help her locate a hidden bird.  I read that dogs work for love, they work for praise, and they work for the fun of it.  I cradled her head between my hands, her nose five short inches from my face and whispered my promise to her that I would be her best friend forever.  She licked my chin and I hugged her in a way I hoped she could understand.

I can't really remember why I chose Molly except for the fact that her head seemed more broad and her paws were marginally larger than her siblings.  I wanted a dog and I was bound and determined to teach it to be the best hunting dog ever.  It didn't have to be a Lab, but someone had told me that they were as versatile a breed as there was and easy to train.  I can also recall my father telling me that I might want to consider a two syllable name as it would be less confusing for the dog when I trained it to stop, heel, sit and fetch.  This is how it all began.

My wife of seven years had left me for a younger man and the city life.  It had been several months since I had someone to share with.   I was left with a farmhouse and barn in Candia, NH with 17 acres of field and woods and it just seemed like the right thing to do.  The 32 lambs I had bought to fatten up over the summer weren't satisfying my need for a real friend and it was like I owed it to myself to have a companion, besides I didn't want any puppy ending up in a dog pound.  I paid the lady with twenties and a ten, shot a backward glance at the other puppies, cradled Molly in my right arm and walked to my car.  I felt overjoyed with my new friend as I carefully arranged her in a crumpled beach towel inside of a cardboard box once used to transport six half gallons of Wild Turkey.  I adjusted the volume to low, dialed a station with slow music and steered with one hand, my other slowly stroking her head and back as we departed the city and started back down an indirect series of rural roads heading down the Connecticut River Valley and then bending east for the final 100 miles to my place.  The newness of leaving her brothers and sisters coupled with the excitement of smells and sounds and motion must have been overwhelming for in little time  she was fast asleep.  Molly hardly stirred and I was happy for the peace I felt inside and sensed she must be feeling the same, too.

The lambs were waiting for their sweetened grain supplement when we arrived at Molly's new home that late afternoon.  They were milling around a feed trough and  I lifted Molly out of her box; she stumbled a bit and then steadied, squatted and relieved herself.  As it would turn out the lambs paid no attention to their new boss.  After tearing open the feed bag and glancing at Molly,  I unlatched the fence gate, fed the yearlings, and coaxed her on to follow me to the shed.  Unable to handle the old granite steps I picked her up and carried her into the one room I now occupied most of the time.  It was heated by a woodstove, had a worn leather chair and sofa, and a hassock, a nice 18" color television and a beat up oriental rug, and in the corner between the woodstove and my chair was a brand new dog bed.  Molly was already fast asleep in her bed when I returned from the kitchen with her water dish.  I would let her sleep before I fed her a half a cup of Purina for Puppies. I was the happiest I would ever be, just Molly and me in the security of a farmhouse in the late springtime and I welcomed the meadow smells through the opened windows.

Within a week she was telling me when she had to do her business and we trained each other without much stress.  It was a relationship that only the Creator could have arranged.  I was a lobbyist and spending upwards of four days a week in Concord.  For the first few months, my station wagon was Molly's home.  During the hours I spent inside the State House and between meetings with legislators and hearings, I was walking to a place where I had parked in the shade, leashing Molly and teaching her to heal, sit and practically pee on command.  A small grassy knoll behind the State Library took a beating but neither Molly nor I cared.

After two steering wheels and missing knobs on the dash, it became obvious that Molly would need to stay back at the farm during the days that I had to travel to Concord so I built a 48 square foot pen with a ramp leading from an old horse stall inside the barn to a fenced in place that received sun most of the day.  I filled the stall with some old Army blankets and plenty of green hay I borrowed from my neighbor.  Her drinking dish in the stall was a galvanized pail and I made sure it was full every day when I had to leave her alone.  Though there had been a homicide two houses down where my wife and I had moved a couple of years earlier the thought never occurred to me that anyone would steal Molly and thankfully no one did.  Without fail every day when I hurried home from my job in Concord, I would drive Molly down to a shallow mill pond where no one went and encourage her to swim and fetch a stinky old deflated rubber football to which I had wired pheasant, grouse, and waterfowl feathers.  And on each retrieve I would step back a few steps hoping that when she matured she would retrieve and drop a downed bird at my feet.  It worked.

And then the first October in her life arrived signaling the opening of bird hunting season.  The fields behind the farm were good for running, but there were no pheasants stocked there so I bought a dozen coturnix.  I would have preferred doves knew of no source so I bought a used rabbit cage which was perfect.  A hungry fox or mink would be thwarted and cleaning the wire bottom was not an issue so it was practically speaking an ideal plan.  I figured we would need one bird per day hoping that with the weight of a six foot piece of string, we might recycle a bird for multiple flushes, how many I was uncertain.  As it turned out Molly has a soft mouth which meant that most of these bird that I was training her with could be recycled on an average of four times.  That October I bought four dozen coturnix.  It was an investment I would never regret.  "E A S Y   EASY GIRL    E a s y   easy" and Molly learned to steady on a motionless coturnix and when I stepped forward and flushed the bird I would restrain her.  And a few weeks later, I fired my 22 caliber revolver in the air when a bird flushed and then a 20 gauge and then Molly graduated.  I don't believe she weighed more than 15 or 20 pounds but to my way of thinking she was well on her way to becoming a field grade champion and the best Lab anyone could love and love her I did.  It was around day 225  of her young life when one Monday, the last day of pheasant season, I introduced Molly to a series of fields where pheasants had been stocked during the season.

Ashton Bohanon and his brother, Ivan, ran a milking farm of Holsteins in Tyler.  By New Hampshire standards their eight square miles of mixed fields bordered by the Contoocook River provided ideal habitat for pheasants and it was a favored stocking site of the NH Fish & Game Department.  Between ground predators, raptors, and many hunters who had pounded those fields, the chances of Molly and I finding a bird were nil, after all, her only exposure to the scent of a pheasant was from a water-logged old football that was mixed with grouse and waterfowl feathers.  I brought my Grandfather's old 16 gauge double with four shells, all #6's, stuffing the two extras in my chaps.  I usually hunted with a Remington 870 but the nostalgia of Gramps, Dad and my first dog added up to the occasion at hand.

With a whistle dangling from a  leather bootlace lanyard, an old Red Sox baseball hat, a Filson gunning vest over a chamois shirt and my 9" Bean boots I was all set;  I fixed Molly's blaze orange collar with the brass bell we had trained with and attached a 50 foot long 1/4' wide canvas lead.  This would be our maiden trips and there are few trainers who would advise starting a bird dog so early in life, but Molly was not your average dog; she was different and I could not fathom a full eleven months through a cold winter and a long summer without rewarding her a trip to the big leagues, so there we were.  She tried chewing a spent milkweed pod and spit it out.  We started along the river bank where there was taller grass and some brush.  Molly kept looking back to make sure I wasn't losing her.  I reminded her once in a great while that she was not to range too far in front with a tug on the long leash.  Soon, as if on cue, Molly started cutting back and forth.  Once she yelped when she stepped on a sheared corn stalk and that's when I reined her in with one long toot on the whistle.  As she sat, heaving out of breath I looked off to the left and there in a wind row, where a week earlier corn had stood, was a pile of hen pheasant feathers.  I ventured it might have been a red-tail hawk because there was no evidence of paw prints, but it was a guess at best, nonetheless, I couldn't be happier.  This would be Molly's first whiff of a recently deposed pheasant.  I allowed her some distance on the leash and she smelled and smelled and tried tasting the remnant feathers.  I was so happy that she and I had shared this first time.  This was the real deal and how lucky was I to be part of it.

The rest of the morning was uneventful for me, but a brand new world for my acquired friend.  From rolling in green cow flats to tasting everything in sight there was no doubt that Molly was having a great time trying out the newness of everything a dog could hope for.  With the exception of her second cry of the day when she ran headlong into a strand of barbwire, our experience of wandering with abandon in open fields could not have been more perfect.  She slept on the ride home.

And the snows eventually came around Thanksgiving Day of that year and she would jump and try to snag a falling snowflake.  We lived close to the woodstove and when I carried wood into the room we shared, she would carry a small stick as if she was helping and that would be her play thing and obsession until such time she would watch me place it in the fire at which time she would cock her head quizzically and flex her ears as if to question why.  And when I was finished reading the newspaper after supper she would patiently wait for me to lay it on the rug for her upon which to lay her head.  Molly and I read each other perfectly.  And then the winter snows arrived for real and we bonded by the fireplace waiting for the crocus to signal a time when we could practice in the mill pond again and again retrieving a new Kapox dummy that had replaced  the old football.  Time seemed to drag as we both tried to be patient for the tulips to show and the grass to green;  I loved to watch her try to please me and please me she did.

That Spring she tasted black flies, May flies, Deer flies, Green eyes, and mosquitoes and more cow flats as we traipsed along fields and drainage ditches repeating 'heel', 'stay' and 'fetch.'  As she matured in strength and savvy, her webbed pads instinctively widened with every day of swimming at the mill pond.  Her enthusiasm could be measured as her head rose with her chest breaking the water and her ancestral predisposition was such a joy to watch.  Selfishly I wanted every wannabe hunter to share what I was experiencing  -  the most perfect adolescent Labrador Retriever on earth and Molly was all mine.  How could I be so blessed!  I swore to myself I would never miss a shot and I would never let her down in any way, no matter what it took. Spring turned into summer and finally October arrived, but not before we had spent hundreds of hours in the woods chasing grouse and occasionally jumping a pair of breeding mallards from a remote forest pond.  Word had it that there was a pheasant stocking site near the power plant on the same side of the Merrimack River in Bow which was no more than 35 minutes from the farmhouse in Candia.  This would be our first real expedition and the night before opening day I laid out everything we would need including a cup of puppy chow for Molly.  The alarm sounded at 3:30 a.m.  An hour later we left the house. It was a brisk morning chill that greeted her and I as we would take my pickup this day. A smattering of rain the previous night would hold a pheasant's scent in the dog's favor.  I could hardly wait.

When I pulled off the main road onto a dirt road leading down to the stocking site I thought it was strange that there would be the headlights of two vehicles ahead of me and one behind me.  I guess it was less of a shock when I saw a dozen vehicles parked next to the other up with men standing in a line in front of a chuck wagon waiting for coffee and donuts.  All kinds of dogs were tethered to tailgates waiting for their masters to release them at the crack of dawn.  I would be dammed if Molly was going to be exposed to this charade.  She deserved more than this.  We returned home and I checked my schedule at the State House for that day and figured that there was no compelling reason for me to be there.  I was discouraged because few pheasants escape the fusillade and cross-fire on opening day and I wasn't sure where we could go and not run into hunters.  And then I remembered an old back entrance that led to the dike at the West Hopkinton flood site.  It was 10:30 a.m. when we arrived and I was relieved that there were no other vehicles in sight.  Not only that, but there were no tire tracks in the soft ground where I parked my old Chevy pickup..  Birds or no birds, at least we would have some unchartered territory by ourselves.

The end of the dike was located  two miles from where birds would have been stocked three days earlier.  The dike itself ran a  half mile to the south, was forty feet high and consisted of blasted ledge rock.  From where we parked it was no more than 200 feet to where we would follow a hiking path up and over this emergency flood dam.  No sooner was Molly out of the truck when she started with her nose to the ground.  The first bird she pointed was a Robin and then she started after an overzealous chipmunk.  It was good for her to try all these things and when she saw that I was paying no attention she got down to business and led me over the dam and into a one acre pasture that had two wild apple trees.  There were no hunters in sight although I do remember hearing a distant shot and watching Molly stop and look in that direction.

This was the first time that I had not used the 50 foot leash and I really did not know what to expect.  I would cut through the still green field and check out an apple or two when it struck me that Molly's bell must have fallen off because it had been a minute since I last heard it and truthfully since I had seen her.  A mild surge of panic filled me and then I looked 25 feet to my right and there she was.....dead on point.  She was frozen in time and thankfully I had enough wits about me to release the safety.  Molly's otter tail was fully extended and she held her head high looking down to the left into a clump of tall grass and a multi-flora thicket.  E A S Y GIRL   E A S Y  MOLLY  With my second step two beautiful cock birds cackling flushed.  At the moment they had cleared Molly I fired at the lead cock and saw him set his wings; how could I have missed him?  The follow-up ring-neck crumpled in mid-air on my second shot and Molly smelled her first warm bird while I watched her figure a way to get this large bird in her mouth.  I could hear my heart beat in my ears.  Finally she managed and as I backed up she dropped the  bird  at my feet just as we had practiced with dummies at the mill pond.

What I did not know was that somehow she had watched the first cock as he soared some 100 yards  out of sight.  The minute I removed a mouthful of belly feathers from her mouth she ran off in the direction where the first bird had headed.  I listened as her bell faded and I reached for my whistle.  I blew it long and hard two or three times, but there was no sign of my dog.  What could I have possibly been thinking when I cleared her mouth of the feathers and didn't I hold her collar and let the excitement of the moment catch up with both of us?  I repeated blowing the whistle as hard as I could twice more with perhaps a ten second interval.  The longest two minutes in my life passed before my eyes. What if she had run into a porcupine or stepped in a leg trap set for an Eastern coyote?

And then she was running toward me with a struggling cock bird in her soft mouth  The bird was flapping and pecking her muzzle.  I don't know whether I was more happy to have my dog back or even more happy that she had retrieved a cripple.  On the first official day of her young life Molly had won a gold medal.  I pocketed the birds and we sat beneath the nearest apple tree.  I picked up an apple and chewed off a bite and fed it to Molly.  She sniffed it and when she saw me eat a bite she, too, ate hers.  I took my hat off looked skyward and thanked God for the morning and for all my blessings.  At that moment nowhere in the world was there a prouder person than me.  A double on her first day with her first chance, her perfect point and two superb retrieves.

Our first full year we managed 18 pheasants, one grouse and two wood ducks.  Every cripple was retrieved, but I did miss two easy shots.  Molly would not let me know she despised woodcock, but our training paid dividends beyond compare in every other way  -  Molly was a pointing Lab as versus a flushing bird dog such as a Springer Spaniel and she would wait for me to break her point and 'kick out' a hiding bird.  God help me if I missed the shot though.

Spectacular points and even more spectacular retrieves waited for us over the seasons and one I remember in particular occurred when Molly and I had retraced the same cover that two hunters with a nice looking brace of English Setters had just spent 15 minutes scouring.  Just as sure as the green apples that God makes, Molly pointed a rooster that was weary of running and this one bird admittedly went wild.  I had no shot but the two hunters saw what was happening and three shots rang out as the bird glided toward tall marsh grass not far from where they stood.  Their setters set forth and so did Molly.  It was Molly who carried the flapping bird back to me 100 yards from where it had landed with a broken wing.  Quickly I wrung its neck and Molly and I headed down over the bank and out of sight and wasted no time returning the mile and a half to our truck.  I had difficulty restraining myself from laughing out loud.  This dammed dog was the best ever!  Neither Molly nor I felt any remorse............Hell, why should we............she had pointed a bird that their dogs had missed, the cock pheasant would have run forever because they had failed to kill it outright with three shots and most important they had confused their setters something wicked.  I was never prouder of Molly, but there would be so many more, too many to count.

The seasons passed way too quickly and in her tenth year of life, Molly developed a small tumor mid-chest,  It didn't interfere with her spirit or her stamina but I asked Dr. Rob Whittaker to come over anyway and have a look.  Whit assured me It was benign and not uncommon for Labs.  One snowy evening that winter over a couple of single malt scotches with Molly nestled at Whit's feet in the room where my dog and I had shared her entire life I mustered the courage to ask Whit whether we should have the tumor removed and he answered that removing it would not prevent others from appearing and that tumors were typical in this breed.  Whit told me that unless it were for some show-dog mentality to impress others, that were Molly his dog, he would never have it removed and so I didn't.  During the summer and hunting season, Molly's toe nails pretty much stayed worn to the right length but during the winter they grew long and it was always Whit who would clip them.  I was grateful to have such a close friend who happened to be a neighbor and considerate fellow hunter, although not the greatest of shots.  He hunted with a 28 gauge single shot broken barrel Winchester and insisted on using #7.5 in regular brass.  My beat up Model #870 pump with three magnum #6's was adequate backup especially with a full cylinder choke.  In the name of losing a ring-necked pheasant compared to rewarding Molly, there was never a question.  Once I calculated that for every 5 miles I hunted (Molly would easily triple that distance); the deeper into the short season we hunted, the less the odds we would find a bird but neither of us cared.  We were not meat hunters.............we just plain relished being together with no distractions, albeit it was always better if we crossed paths with a pheasant or grouse.

During Molly's 12th season as more tumors populated her under-carriage and my knees became bone on bone, we both slowed.  When trailing a bird her routes became less circuitous and we both found ourselves looking for a shady place with a convenient stump or fallen tree for me to sit while she recouped her breath while laying her head on my boots. On the very last day of the season that year, I asked my 87 year old Dad and 16 year old grandson to walk with Molly and I for a couple of hours over in the West Hopkinton flood plain where 12 years earlier Molly had experienced her first double. The four of us literally retraced hers and my steps on that once magical day one.  The two apple trees were still there although the worse for wear.  Increasing mobility issues for Molly, Dad and myself meant that we chose not to penetrate the thick cover and instead walked an easier and less trodden tote road down through the middle.  Molly summoned her usual stamina and traversed back and forth but many hunters and their highly trained dogs had hunted the area for a good month before we checked it out on this final day of the season.  The path we walked was  a good half mile long with alder and aspen woodcock cover on the left and marshy high-bush cranberry and thickets of Autumn Olive on the right; a dairy farm was three hundred yards to the right and a canal leading to Stumpfield Marsh hugged the furthermost edge of the deciduous stretch on the opposite side of the old road which we walked.

Finally we came to a large clearing at the end marked by a room sized clump of six foot tall two year old aspen.  Dad was sharing a story with Kyle about gun safety and how to always trust your dog  when it struck me that Molly's bell was not clanking.  She was on point.  I told my Dad to get ready and for Kyle to duck if a bird went up.  It all happened very fast. I stepped in and the cock bird flushed low and fast to the right cackling as if this was the end.  I fired and thought the bird rocked while the hen rose straight over Dad's and Kyle's head and headed west into the sun.  I waited until the bird cleared and fired twice; she was probably out of range but it only takes one pellet in the right place to knock them down.  I knew I had not drawn a feather.

Molly was already waiting for me so I followed her to where the cock had headed.  I was 99% sure I had winged this big rooster but now I was thinking I might have been pointing my shotgun at tail feathers.  I have never been more disappointed in myself.  Kyle walked 10 yards to my right with Molly working feverishly between us.  There was no bird.  Had there been, Molly would have found it.  She was  valediction of her class.  It took me a full 20 minutes before either Molly or I would give up the search, but finally it was time for me to 'eat crow'  -  that bird has escaped my shot, stayed low and vanished out of sight when I tried for the hen.  It was the perfect storm for the two birds that would undoubtedly regroup in the early hours of the following dawn when the cock crowed from his hideout and the hen would follow at his beckon.  No hunter would challenge them again, but between fisher, fox, mink, raptors and the ravages wrought by the oncoming winter, no one would bet on their survival to the Spring of the next year.

I cannot begin to tell you how stupid and really embarrassed  I felt to miss this double in front of Dad who had tutored me for every day of my life whether there in person or not, my grandson, Kyle, who I would have preferred to remember the day as one with Molly retrieving a double, but mostly for Molly, who had relied on me all these years to reward her with fresh feathers.  To this day, I cannot forget the experience, and deservedly I hope I never do.   Her first successful double was now negated by my failure to connect just a few hundred yards in the same cover where it had all begun when she was a puppy.

That winter was not a good one for Molly.  She stumbled a couple of times climbing the stairs leading to the shed and I really didn't think much of it until one night when she and I were enjoying the crackling fire in the woodstove the light of my reading lamp revealed that her left eye was cloudy.  The following morning I asked Whit what it could be and that night he drove over and looked over Molly.  He waved his pen light on each of her eyes and looked at me.  He didn't have to say anything........Molly was going blind.  How could this be I thought as I poured Whit a scotch.  When I re-entered the room it was Whit who broke the silence and he gracefully explained to me that as far as he could tell, it was just Molly's  one eye that was not working and that she could make it with one eye.  I can't explain the emptiness I felt and it was really then for the first time that I remember thinking that someday I would have to make the decision that everyone who loves their pet must make.  That night I put my pillow next to Molly and cuddled her to sleep.  I tickled her between her pads and fondled her ears which I know she loved and when she stretched and breathed deeply I left her with a fresh stoked fire and headed to bed.  I know I asked God to save her remaining eye that night as I was wont to do when up against tough odds and then I, too, fell asleep.

Spring could not come quickly enough for either of us and Molly grew a few more fatty tumors.  Whit assured me they were harmless and not painful but the sheer elegance and majesty of my best friend was not as regal as it had once been.  Her coat no longer had the sheen and her bad eye had become opaque.  None of this mattered to her, however, and every day we drove to the mill pond where Molly would try to outsmart frogs perched on lily pads.  This girl loved the water and not until I motioned for her to come would she leave the pond; and while she aimlessly swam about I was thinking, not about work, but about Molly.

That Fall we snagged 20 pheasants which just happened to be the season bag limit in New Hampshire.  Knowing that it was more difficult for Molly I made sure not to hurry shots and we hunted a total of 27 days but now only for 1 - 2 hours each day.  I found myself having to lift Molly onto the front seat as the spring in her steps had abandoned her along with her left eye.  Her pads were cracked, her muzzle had grayed, it seemed as though she was shedding less but her appetite was still good and I fed her according to her physical activity.  I never heard her complain and she religiously licked her bowl clean every night prior to limping over to my chair where I would help her clean the few whiskers her tongue couldn't quite reach.

And then too soon came the 13th winter of her altogether too short life.  The snow flurries had appeared once or twice and Molly was eating less and her stools became watery.  I knew that Molly knew what I knew, she just couldn't tell me, and I had all that I could do not to let her lap my tears.  Molly knew that the tick season had ended but I couldn't think of any other way.  After I shaved a small space just above her left knee, she licked it approvingly and I rewarded her with a small cube of smoked jerky which she loved.  That was on a Friday evening after she and I had walked around the sheep pasture and the upper field.  I called Dr. Rob Whittaker that night and could hardly get the words out.  He set the date and time one week from that Sunday and told me he would be over around noon.

It was an unusually warm and sunny day that Sunday morning.  Molly and I first visited the mill pond.  The water had cooled somewhat but Molly didn't mind and for 45 minutes she swam from one lily pad to the next, looking back just to make sure I wasn't hiding on her.  On the way back I stopped at  Dunkin Donuts and grabbed a small coffee and two plain donut holes.  I concealed one of the donut holes inside my left palm and made Molly work for it which she did.  I never got two so when she had curled up and closed her eyes I did the same thing again figuring I would surprise her.  However she smelled the second one, opened her eyes and stared me down; I opened my palm.  The look Molly gave me was less than appreciative for trying to trick her and though the drive was a short ten minutes she was fast asleep when I pulled in the yard.

I unloaded her and she ran for the grass where she pooped and then pooped again.  It was around 9:30 a.m.   I loaded the woodstove, added a sweater beneath my windbreaker, loaded one breast pocket with jerky cubes and headed for the woods where I knew of a few old apple trees.  I still loved the way Molly maneuvered about and watched her every move.  There had been a grouse near one of the trees which had flushed in advance of our approach because Molly put her nose to the ground and ran in concentric circles as fast as her tired and worn out old body could move.  We stayed there for a good half hour while Molly's memories were freshened by revisits of earlier times.  And then we walked the perimeters of the fields for the last time with Molly canvassing every place pretending there might be a bird.

Mercifully Whit was in the house waiting when we got back.  Molly immediately addressed my dear friend and lapped his hand.  Whit caressed her ears and I lifted Molly onto the old leather sofa next to Whit where he always sat when visiting.  Molly was soon fast asleep laying on her right side.  A better friend and a more compassionate veterinarian no one has ever known and Whit knew I couldn't talk.  He softly told me that the morning's exercise was perfect for what he had to do as the main artery in Molly's left leg was prominent, that a tourniquet would not be required and that he would be able to make an injection from where he sat without waking her.  Silently I begged God to make it this way.  Whit promised me that Molly would not smell the injection nor would she feel the stick.  Whit asked me if I wanted to pat Molly for the last time and I nodded no; in no way would I risk waking her.  It was over in 90 seconds.  I left the room where Molly and I called home for 13 unbelievably love-filled years, went out into the barn, leaned against the stall and sobbed.  No one could hear me and I could care less if they did.  I never did hear Whit leave and I never saw Molly again.

That afternoon and night I thanked God for the life he gave to Molly and for bringing us together.  The inseparability of Molly and I had ended as peacefully as could be and she was the better off now..  I could not have stood myself knowing that my dog had suffered and to this day I don't believe she did.

It was two weeks to that day when Whit called and asked me how I was.  I drew my breath and told him "thank you" and asked what I owed him.  As was his way, he said not to worry about it and was I going to be home for a few minutes.  I replied that I had to clean up a stall and to drop by whenever the spirit moved him.  It was no more than ten minutes before I heard Whit's voice.  He was standing in the doorway, having assumed I was in the house.  He held the front door open for me and took my arm and led me to the mantle under which the woodstove stood.  On the mantle there was a small box containing Molly's ashes with an engraved plate, "Molly Corson - the perfect soul mate."  I cried again, as did Whit, then we poured ourselves a toast to my Molly.  She was the best dog ever and she had filled my life with more meaning than anyone would ever know.

Goodnight, Molly  -  I will love you till the end of time.